Richard is straight out of the operatic version of ‘Scarface’, his prospective wife plucked from ‘Corpse Bride’, the set taken from ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ accents abound.
The influences come fast and furious (fortunately not from that franchise) in Hamletscenen’s production of ‘Richard III’, which is playing for the next three weeks on an outdoor stage at Kronborg Castle, and the audience is hooked from the start.
Crump humps his way from chump to champ
Casper Crump delivers the kind of masterclass of villainy that King Claudius, taking notes with baited breath from an overlooking window, can only conspire to in his wildest dreams (if only Laertes wasn’t such a crap fencer).
Only occasionally employing the traditional physical deformity associated with the role – limp, hunchback, withered arm – but to magnificent effect when he does, Crump’s performance is all about the mental deformity: the crookedness running through the ill-fated king’s soul.
The opening scene serves as his rebirth as he menacingly relearns how to walk – neither joyously as a child or inspirationally as a Ron Kovic, but as the Antichrist walking into history.
With slicked-back, jet-black hair, Crump is a satyr with an insatiable appetite for power and lust. He humps the floor, kicks two urns of his vanquished opponents’ ashes into a skip and signs off with an Al Pacino-esque ‘hah’ as he leaves the stage. Round 1 to the man with the black heart.
Tricks of the trade pay off
The departure of Crump gives the audience a chance to breathe and appreciate the work of Mike Sheridan, two years on from his triumph with the Hamletscenen production of ‘Hamlet’, who again provides moody instrumentals to perfectly complement the onstage tension and battlements in the foreground.
A clever casting decision enables deaf actress Jean St Clair to portray Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of the ailing Edward IV – believe me, you’ve never heard Shakespearean wails like this before. Noticeably Richard is the only character who makes no effort to sign in his interactions with her.
English supertitles join their Danish counterparts when she speaks on a screen ingeniously used to permit the involvement of three actors who do not appear on stage in person: Margaret of Anjou, the battleaxe wife of Henry VI (Andrew Jeffers, the Dame in Crazy Christmas Cabaret), and the ill-fated Princes in the Tower. Staging decisions like this succeed in giving the performance more variation.
Lancastrian, Yorkist, Wildling …
The set-piece to get rid of Clarence, a literal drip as it turns out, is a triumph of comic timing, with English actor Tony Bell taking on an apt Lancastrian accent (St Helens?) to eliminate the first of the Yorkists in Richard’s way (and then later Yorkshire a la Barnsley as he swaps sides). Co-murderer Rikke Lylloff’s brogue, meanwhile, is pure Wildling.
Thrones fans will also enjoy the Ned Stark and Littlefinger-like accents of Stanley (Gerard McDermott) and Buckingham (Keith Dunphy), and the latter in particular is a revelation as Richard’s co-plotter. His scenes with Crump as they run into the audience taunting them with their rhetorical panto are electric.
But the award for best accent has to go to Mads Knarreborg as Tyrrell, who comes on looking like the Unibomber and departs sounding like Darth Vader.
Graveyard in his closet, greatness on their resumes
In the end, nobody can deny that Crump’s portrayal of a king with a whole graveyard in his closet stole the show.
We marvelled at his wondrous drunk ramblings, attempts to masturbate out of frustration that he can’t have his lady and eventual strangulation of her in an act of brutality so realistic that most of the audience really thought he had killed her.
Aside from a few slow scenes (the one following Edward IV’s death was a dud) and questionable casting decisions (Edward V struggled to be understood), director Lars Romann Engel has crafted another energetic, modern Shakespeare production that is accessible for everyone to enjoy. It’s a reminder, again, that everyone enjoys a good villain.